Asked and Answered: The Fisher Creed at 20
Collegium sat down with alumna Marty McCarthy '98 and current undergraduate Kelsey Michener '18 to learn more about the origins of the Fisher Creed was born and find out what it means to students today.
A Fisher Point of View
By Marty McCarthy ’98
When Ben Franklin emerged from the close of the Constitutional Convention in 1787, he was asked, “Well, doctor, what have we got—a republic or a monarchy?” Franklin’s famous response: “A republic, if you can keep it.”
On December 4, 1996, when Student Government Association (SGA) President Will Boatwright announced the community’s completion of work on The Fisher Creed, he quipped, “Now, the question becomes what do we do with it?”
Inspired by a document for academic excellence from the University of South Carolina, Boatwright had wanted to create a statement of values to bind the Fisher community together – strengthening the students’ commitment to excellence and to each other.
If Boatwright was its visionary, the Fisher Creed’s guiding hands were the other members of the Student Government Association’s Executive Committee: Sue Ippoliti ’97, Paul Brower ’98, Mike Liberatore ’98, and Anthony Altieri ’98 as well as former dean of students Mary Beth Cooper. In September, October, and November of 1996, SGA organized community forums to work on the Fisher Creed. The first forum was designed to identify values that the community deemed important. Though the community included faculty and staff, Boatwright’s vision was clear: In order for the Creed to bind the students of St. John Fisher College together, its authors must be the students.
At the second forum, students were asked to rank choices of values given in September from 1 to 11. The purpose was to gain community consensus on the values that were most important.
At the final forum, participants were presented with a rough draft titled “A Fisher Point of View.” Groups were tasked with fine-tuning the document and offering a name for the piece. The term “creed” was preferred by many because it was stronger than “A Point of View.” Ultimately a wise compromise was reached and “The Fisher Creed” was born.
Boatwright saw the Creed as a “living document that we hold dear to us as a community,” hoping it would define and unite students for years to come. “If the document doesn’t speak to every student…then in my eyes, it fails,” he said.
I had the pleasure in 1996 to attend each of the SGA forums and to watch the Creed take shape. It has fallen to me to tell this story because Will Boatwright, the visionary behind the Creed, tragically passed away in 2016. He embodied The Fisher Creed, and though he is not here to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the adoption of Creed, his spirit lives on in the community he worked so hard to create. In the fall of 2016, the College announced the creation of the William Boatwright Fisher Creed Award, given to a current student who works to uphold the values of the Creed.
And what do we do next?
By Kelsey Michener ’18
Twenty years ago, Fisher students made a huge mark on our campus by creating the Fisher Creed. Four years ago, as a freshman, I picked up a pen and signed the Creed, along with my classmates. We signed it as we processed into the Matriculation Ceremony, an event that marks the end of freshman orientation and the beginning of our time as Fisher students. Needless to say, there was a lot going through my head at the time—new people, new home, no parents. I knew that signing the Creed was a rite of passage for Fisher students, and I was excited to put my signature with those of my classmates, but I will admit that I didn’t feel the full measure of its importance that day.
As I settled into life at Fisher, the meaning and importance of the Creed became clearer. It wasn’t something that I symbolically signed. We talk a lot about the Fisher family. From alumni to President Rooney to students, faculty, and staff, we are, collectively, part of this special group. The Fisher Creed and the Fisher family are entwined and woven together. Because we share respect, are open-minded, and have integrity, we are able to build a community that celebrates diversity, exhibits responsibility, is committed to education, values leadership, and fosters growth. I see this in all areas of our campus, from my involvement in the student organizations space to the trading lab in the Salerno Center. This is truly what sets the Fisher family apart from any other college environment I know. As Cardinals, it is expected that we uphold those eight values daily: Respect, Open-mindedness, Integrity, Diversity, Responsibility, Education, Leadership, and Growth. When I signed the Creed, I signed up to be in the Fisher family for life.
Over the past four years, we Fisher students—like those before us and those who will come after—have worked to live the Fisher Creed. Knowing it was written entirely by Fisher students, just like us, has always given it special meaning. It is a tradition that creates a bond among all of us, and our names, hanging on the wall in the Campus Center, become part of Fisher’s history. And that’s why I love Fisher; each and every student is part of the history.
We have made a commitment to live by the tenets of the Fisher Creed, and this is not something that ends when we graduate. These values tenets define the Fisher family and set us apart. When we signed it at Matriculation we were asked, “How will you uphold the Creed?” We work for four years to answer that question when we go to class, when we volunteer in the community, when we compete on the playing field.
So, to answer Will Boatwright’s question, “What do we do with it?” I say, we make a life out of it. We make a Fisher family out of it. And we make a better world out of it.